Taking Grassroots Activism to the Next Level

Archive for December, 2006

Change in U.S. Congress boosts prospects for Armenian genocide resolution

December 26th, 2006 by

With Democrats taking control of the U.S. Congress, prospects have increased that lawmakers will approve a resolution recognizing the World War I-era killings of Armenians as genocide — despite the objections of President George W. Bush.

The shift in Congress also dims the likelihood that the Bush administration can break a deadlock over the president’ss nominee for ambassador to Armenia, Richard Hoagland. Senate Democrats have blocked Hoagland’s nomination because of his refusal to call the killings a genocide.

The matters before Congress highlight how the deaths of the 1.5 million Armenians almost a century ago remain a sensitive international issue today. The Bush administration has warned that even congressional debate on the genocide question could damage relations with Turkey, a moderate Muslim nation that is a NATO member and an important strategic ally. [Read more]

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Stallone’s deft as Rocky in the Q&A ring

December 20th, 2006 by

Facing the barbs of the insatiable media, Sylvester Stallone is as gracious and imperturbable in answering all questions as Rocky was deflecting the insults of classless opponents.

With the sixth Rocky movie arriving in theaters Wednesday, Stallone at 60 knows full well many critics label him a one-note writer and actor.

No one will cry for Stallone, with his millions in crafty percentage deals, but he can be called a victim of his own success: Thirty years ago, he wrote and starred in one of the iconic American movies, and as Stallone put it in an interview here, “therein lies a dilemma.”

One career direction means “you fall back on something you know the audience wants to see, but it’s not going to break any new ground or gain any new respect from your peers. Next thing you know, it will be ‘Cobra 3.’ That is a real problem,” Stallone said, in Denver to publicize “Rocky Balboa.” [Read more]

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Turkey sees EU talks moving forward before year-end

December 19th, 2006 by

Washington Post
Turkey expects its troubled European Union membership talks to move forward before the end of the year with the opening of some policy chapters in negotiations, Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said on Tuesday.

Last week the EU partially suspended Ankara’s accession talks over the Muslim country’s refusal to open its ports and airports to traffic from EU-member Cyprus, a country it does not recognize

But it was agreed that talks on policy areas not covered by the freeze should go ahead.
“We hope that the chapters which should be opened are opened in a short time. We expect some chapters to be opened speedily during the Finnish presidency,” Gul told a news conference. [Read more]

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Turkey’s Killing Fields

December 18th, 2006 by

In July 1915, the American ambassador to the Ottoman Empire sent Washington a harrowing report about the Turks’ “systematic attempt to uproot peaceful Armenian populations.” He described “terrible tortures, wholesale expulsions and deportations from one end of the Empire to the other accompanied by frequent instances of rape, pillage and murder, turning into massacre.” A month later, the ambassador, Henry Morgenthau — the grandfather of the Manhattan district attorney, Robert M. Morgenthau — warned of an “attempt to exterminate a race.”
The Young Turk nationalist campaign against the empire’s Armenian subjects was far too enormous to be ignored at the time. But decades of government-backed denial have created what amounts to a taboo in Turkey today. Instead of admitting genocide, Turkish officials contend the Armenians were a dangerous fifth column that colluded with Russia in World War I; many Armenians may have died, they say, but there was no organized slaughter. Turkish writers who challenge this line, like the novelists Orhan Pamuk and Elif Shafak, have risked prosecution for insulting Turkish identity. And on the diplomatic front, when Turkey should be polishing its credentials for eventual European Union membership, it is mired in historical fights; this May, for instance, it pulled out of a NATO military exercise to protest the Canadian prime minister’s acknowledgment of the genocide. [Read more]

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EU Slows Turkey’s Membership Talks

December 15th, 2006 by

European Union leaders formally endorsed the decision to partially freeze Turkey’s membership talks at a summit Thursday that focused on how quickly — and how far — the bloc should expand.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said all 25 leaders “support the decision unanimously” to slow down talks with Turkey over its refusal to honor a pact to open its ports and airports to EU member Cyprus.

The leaders reiterated that Turkey and other EU hopefuls must comply with EU membership criteria — signaling that two years after taking in 10 new, mostly eastern European members, the path to the European Union will become considerably tougher. [Read more]

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Getting at the Truth

December 13th, 2006 by

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the egregious president of Iran, is hosting a conference this week on whether the Holocaust really happened. There are serious questions that someone with Ahmadinejad’s hostile attitude toward the state of Israel might ask about the Holocaust — did it justify the settlement of its survivors in Palestine in the first place and has Israel misused the Holocaust to justify the Israeli settlements in the occupied territories — but whether the Holocaust ever happened is not one of them. To even somewhat sensible, mildly educated people, Ahmadinejad’s conference is like having a conference about whether the world might be flat after all.

Although Iran surely intends this as an affront to Israel and Jewish people everywhere — my family and I fled Czechoslovakia in 1939, leaving my grandparents and many relatives behind to die in Theresienstad and Auschwitz — the real victims of this minor latter-day outrage are the Iranian people and rational discourse everywhere. [Read more]

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Armenian group criticizes EU decision on Turkey

December 12th, 2006 by

An Armenian pressure group criticized the European Union on Tuesday for basing its decision to partially suspend membership talks with Turkey only on a dispute over Cyprus.

It complained the EU ignored human rights issues and the controversy over the World War I-era mass killings of Armenians.

“The silence of the (EU) member countries on other Turkish violations are a lapse that seriously endangers European integration,” said a statement from the European Armenian Federation for Justice and Democracy.

EU foreign ministers on Monday agreed to suspend membership talks with Turkey in a number of areas ranging from fisheries to external relations in response to Ankara’s refusal to respect an agreement to open its ports to ships and planes from Cyprus.Although the decision was a blow to Turkey’s EU membership aspirations, the Brussels-based Armenian lobby group said it did not go far enough. It said the EU should have also punished Turkey for violations of human rights, treatment of minorities, a blockade of Armenia’s border and a refusal to recognize the 1915-1919 killings of Armenians as genocide. [Read more]

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Turkey faces cutoff in talks to join EU

December 12th, 2006 by

From the beginning, Turkey’s path to the European Union was a diplomatic minefield. The country is large, 99 percent Muslim, prone to military coups and economic crises, and developed to European levels only in small pockets. It has problems with torture, violence, freedom of expression, corruption and minority rights. The vast majority of its land mass is in Asia Minor, where battles against Kurdish separatists have killed some 37,000 people. Most pressingly, it has 40,000 soldiers occupying part of another EU member country, Cyprus, which it invaded more than three decades ago.

At a summit this week, European leaders look likely to partially suspend membership talks with Turkey because of its refusal to trade with or recognize Cyprus. But with so many other issues to deal with, Turks are buckling down to a long, hard slog. [Read more]

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Turkey at odds with faithful

December 11th, 2006 by

Secular state limits religious expression

Atop a pine-covered hill on this island in the Sea of Marmara, Metropolitan Apostolos, a gray-haired Greek Orthodox bishop, tends the empty, echoing halls of a seminary shuttered for 35 years by government order, dreaming of the day it will reopen to replenish the dwindling ranks of the clergy in Turkey.

An hour’s ferry ride away, Fatma Saglam, an observant Muslim, unwraps her headscarf every morning and walks bareheaded into her bustling Istanbul university, reluctantly choosing education over piety because the Turkish state policy forbids wearing the traditional religious headcovering on campus. [Read more]

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Fed up with EU deadlines, Turkey offers one of its own

December 8th, 2006 by

Turkey responds to a steady menu of EU deadline options with its own serving. The move from a defensive diplomatic diet to an offensive of low-calorie fare puts on the plate an offer of limited port openings to resolve the ongoing Cyprus row.

Turkey passed the diplomatic ball back to Brussels Thursday with a fresh proposal to overcome a deadlock with the European Union over Cyprus.

In the latest twist in the complex diplomatic traffic holding Turkey’s EU bid hostage to an opening of ports to Greek Cyprus, Turkey is offering to open one port and one airport to traffic from Greek Cyprus for a period of one year. [Read more]

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